The conflict resolution instructors at the Justice Institute of BC have a common hand gesture when they talk about reframing. The thumb and forefinger are upward, as though holding an apple. Then with a flick of the wrist, the digits’ positions are reversed.
Reframing is when you take a negative and make it a positive, and that switch can make a huge difference on your outlook. I visited a family friend recently whose husband died a few years ago, after a long illness. She’s ready to meet someone new.
“I don’t want anyone who’s sick, who objects to me going to church or who doesn’t want to go out,” she said.
“You want someone who’s healthy, open-minded and active,” I suggested by reframing her dislikes.
Looking at the positive instead of the negative turns a switch in our brains. It feels good to be positive and makes success seem attainable. People in conflict often focus on the negative.
“I don’t want to go to bed.” What is it you want to do instead?
“I don’t like salad.” What vegetables do you like?
“I don’t want to talk about this now.” Okay, we’ll talk about it tomorrow evening – would that be all right?
We all learn as toddlers the power of No. It can take years to recognize the power of Yes.
It’s also easier to strive toward something you want instead of steering clear of the stuff you don’t. Your goal is to get somewhere good, after all. Reframing puts you into a positive attitude, and that’s a worthwhile thing in life.
You can practice reframing in everyday conversation. Listen for a negative statement and think about how you’d switch it around to a positive one.